One problem President Donald Trump has caused for his staff and supporters in the wake of his post-Charlottesville “blame on many sides” comments is that those who still support the president can seem as though they support racism by continued association with the president. Members of Trump’s circle have largely stayed in line despite this risk, with traditional GOP players like Paul Ryan seemingly cowed by Trump’s power. Similarly, even after hundreds of his fellow Yale graduates urged Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to examine his conscience after Charlottesville and act accordingly, Mnuchin largely declined to distance himself from the president.
But over the weekend the president’s most prominent underling, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, did distance himself from the president’s comments, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace concisely: “the president speaks for himself.” Tillerson then directed Wallace and the Fox audience to a speech he made at the State Department on August 18, in which the Secretary of State denounced racists and held the ethical line that Trump has found so slippery — an ethical line that Tillerson called “the American people’s values.” Below are two salient quotes from the Tillerson State Department speech:
Tillerson said unambiguously: “it’s simply important to say – although I think it is well understood and embraced by, I’m certain, everyone in this room – that we all know hate is not an American value.” He added: “we condemn racism, bigotry in all its forms. Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values. It’s antithetical to the American idea.”